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Tron Bag with EL Wire 

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Tron Bag with EL Wire 

Written By: ladyada 



Hair dryer heat gun or lighter (1) 

• EL wire (2.5m) 

Scissors (1) 

EL Inverter with connectors (1) 

Sewinq needle (1) 

Copper tape (1) 

Solderina iron solder (1) 

you can aet this at craft stores in the 

Wire strippers cutters (1) 

alassworkina area 

Heat-shrink tubinq (1) 

various diameters 

• Insulated stranded hookup wire 22- 

gauge (1) 

invisible thread (1) 


Tote your Thinkpad and port your Apple in style with our custom TRON-inspired laptop bag 
tutorial. With a little soldering and sewing skills you can have your own light-up satchel, sure 
to impress geeky friends. So grab your sewing needle and soldering iron and follow along. 

This project was a collaboration between ladyada & becky stern , rock! 

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Tron Bag with EL Wire 

Step 1 — Design 

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• The first step is to plan out your design. We did this on some graph paper. 

• EL wire is stiff and holds its shape but can't be bent many times or it will break (like 
any stiff wire). For that reason, you'll want to try and keep the wires on large flat 
surfaces or going around edges that don't flex. 

• Gather tools and supplies. 

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Tron Bag with EL Wire 

Step 2 

• The nice thing about most laptop bags is that they have a flap and pockets with strong 
piping and corners to protect the computer. We'll take advantage of that! 

• We're going to put a design on the large front flap. We'll start by chalking it out. 

• Think about how you want the EL wire to travel around the bag. 

• EL is hard to solder to, and harder to 'split' so keeping it simple is key! 

• You'll want to have all the ends terminate near a pocket that will hold the inverter. 

• Since the pocket-sized AA inverters can only drive 2 or 3 meters or wire maximum, it's 
smart to keep the design short and sweet. Keep track of how long the final wire will be; add 
up all the segments and keep the number under 2.5m for the best look. 

• Of course, you can also use a larger inverter or two inverters! 

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Tron Bag with EL Wire 

Step 3 — Detailing 


• Now that you have your pattern, it's time to start working with the EL wire. 

• If you've used EL before, it might be easier for you to cut EL pieces to match the traced- 
out pattern. 

• We're EL wire experts, but if you're still not really good with EL or if you're just 
starting out, don't cut any pieces yet! Instead, solder up one EL wire at a time and 
then lay it out and cut the end. This is because it can take a few tries to solder to EL and 
every time you make a mistake you'll have to cut another 1 cm off and start over. 

• We wanted to have a 'broken' wire detail in the center of the bag to match the TRON 
detailing observed in the movie. We did this by slipping some heat shrink over the EL wire 
to 'black out' the light. Much easier than trying to solder it to a short piece of wire. 

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Tron Bag with EL Wire 

Step 4 — Soldering 

• Go over to our detailed EL wire tutorial (you'll want to keep it up on your web browser as 
you solder all the pieces), and attach a connector so that you can connect it to the EL 

• Once you've soldered your connector on, attach it to the inverter and test it to make sure 
the EL is glowing. 

• Now disconnect the wire from the inverter. Never cut EL wire while it's lit! And don't 
cut it yet; we'll do that in a later step. 

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Tron Bag with EL Wire 
Step 5 — Sewing 

• Now we'll start sewing the EL onto 
the bag. We suggest using 
'invisible' thread - also known as 
nylon thread. It's strong and clear 
so that it wont distract from your 

• Place the inverter connected to the 
EL in the pocket you think is best. 
This will let you best judge how 
much wire you need. Be sure to try 
opening and closing the bag so you 
don't make any mistakes. 

• Its easy to cut EL wire down 
but impossible to make it 
longer so measure twice and cut 

• Lay the EL wire so it traces the 
chalk outline (or piping). In this 
photo the EL is lit but we don't 
necessarily suggest that you sew it 
lit unless it helps you visualize the 
design. Use masking tape to keep 
the EL wire in place. 


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• Start at the "inverter" end. 

• Use the needle and thread to wrap around the EL wire and tack it down. A stitch every 
centimeter is fine for long runs. We suggest grabbing plenty of the underlying material to 
provide a strong grip. 

• Once you have traced the pattern, then you should cut the end with wirecutters! (Again, 
don't cut while it's on.) 

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Tron Bag with EL Wire 

• You can cap the EL wire for protection with a piece of small heatshrink. While it's still 
warm, squeeze it with pliers to seal it. 

• Continue with all the pieces, taping them down and sewing them, making sure that all the 
connector ends wind up in the same pocket. You can see here how it all goes to the top 
left corner. 

Step 8 — Splitting wire 

• For the pocket detail, we wanted to have a piece of EL that split in two. This is possible but 
a little trickier than just a single piece. 

• Make sure you're comfortable with soldering to EL wire since you'll need to solder 
to two ends, thus doubling the difficulty. 

• You'll want to cut the first piece a little long, again, and then solder two pieces of copper 
ribbon or other thin stranded wire to both the core and corona wires. Each one can go to 
another EL piece. 

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Tron Bag with EL Wire 
Step 9 — Finishing 

• Almost done! Once the EL wire is 
all sewn on make sure to test each 
strand again to make sure they are 
still strong and connected. Double- 
check all the heatshrink as well. 

• You can pass the wires around the 
bag or, if it's easier and you're OK 
with permanent modification, punch 
a hole and pass the wires through. 
This can be a little neater, less 
obviously modded. 

Step 10 


• Finally we will connect the strands to the inverter. There are inverters that will 'animate' the 
strands but we like the 'solid on' look which also matches the TRON movie best. 

• The only problem is we have 4 wires and we want to run them off of one inverter. We'll 
solve this problem by making a splitter, taking the one output of the inverter and allowing it 
to drive two EL wires. You can do this for as many strands as you'd like; just add up all the 
EL lengths and make sure the inverter will drive that much wire. 

• Solder and heat-shrink the wires. 

• Use the splitter on the inverter (we used two inverters with two splitters here). 

• Store the inverters in one of the front pockets. 

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Tron Bag with EL Wire 

Step 11 

• You're done! Enjoy your TRON 

You can get a kit of parts for your own EL wire project at the Adafruit shop . 

last generated on 2012-1 1 -03 02:52:54 AM. 

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